Monday, February 17, 2014

No Signs of Intelligence at the New York Times

According to this New York Times article:

There are too many camels in the Bible, out of time and out of place.

Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac.

These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history.

I get this mental picture of “too many camels.”  It wouldn’t take many to be “too many” at my house.  Then I picture my copy of the Bible on the table.  I see little camels being squeezed out of it because there are just “too many camels in the Bible” and the must, of course, get out of there and go somewhere.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Seriously, it is the same old story of Bible + archeology + news media always equaling something stupid.

The story reports that two archaeologists from Tel Aviv University excavated at an ancient copper smelting camp in Israel and Jordan.  There, they did not find evidence of domesticated camels until long after the time of the patriarchs.  Which logically implies that the Biblical reports of the patriarchs using camels must be wrong, doesn’t it?  That’s what the article states, but logic in the report is shoddy to absent.

I am neither an archeologist, nor the son of an archeologist, but I am not quite a complete idiot.  Lack of evidence does not prove a negative, not logically, at least.  This excavation might suggest that camels were not used at this particular location this early, but that tells us nothing definitive about other locations.  A general conclusion drawn from two instances does not a good inductive argument make.  No matter what you think about the Bible, logic is logic.  Perhaps the Bible is all wrong about camels.  Perhaps there are “too many” of them mentioned in the Old Testament, at the wrong times and the wrong places.  But absolutely nothing in this article shows that to be the case.

But realizing that requires logic, something that seems to be lacking at the New York Times.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

God, the Ultimate Fan

This is from a Christianity Today interview with William Lane Craig:

As football fans prepare for the big game, what thought would you want to leave them with?

I think the overriding thing I want to say is God's providence rules all of life, even down to the smallest details. Nothing happens without either God's direct will or at least his permission of that event. That includes every fumble, every catch, every run. All of these things are in the providence of God, and therefore, we should not think that these things are a matter of indifference. These are of importance to God as well even though they seem trivial.

Craig is a well-known philosopher/theologian/apologist in evangelical Christian circles.  Much of what he writes will make your head hurt.  So who am I to disagree with him?  Nevertheless, I do disagree, sort of . . .

I agree with his general statement, “Nothing happens without either God's direct will or at least his permission of that event.”  So it is true that, in this sense (which allows for much in the way of “permission”) God does rule all of life.  But this is not a good reason to conclude that we should not think things involved in each play of the Super Bowl might not be of at least relative indifference to God.

That we decide something like a football game will consume our attention, and for many, their resources, does not mean that God is necessarily concerned with every detail of that event – things like which team converts a key third down, for example.  Perhaps God is a football fan, of sorts – how could we ever know that since He has decided to reveal nothing about it to us?

I have no doubt that God, as our Creator and Sustainer, has some level of interest in almost everything we do.  But everything that God has revealed about Himself would indicate that, while He is completely aware of human spectacles like the Super Bowl, they are not the sorts of things about us that are in the important category to God.  To give Craig his due, earlier in the interview he implied this, but here I thinks he jumps far beyond the evidence he presents for his conclusion.

There is nothing wrong with watching and enjoying a sporting event of almost any kind.  But a sporting event, especially of the professional kind, is staged primarily to amuse ourselves.  Again, some amount of amusement is not wrong.  But in all likelihood, for many people, the kinds of things surrounding something like a Super Bowl that would most concern God would be matters other than the details of game play.

God is concerned about those who wasted more of their resources on sports than on the kingdom of heaven.  God might think it important that so many people can think of nothing but a sporting event for several weeks, to the exclusion of their knowledge of and relationship with Him.  God might very interested in the fact that some of us think more of our favorite sports hero than we do of Him.  God could well think it quite important that so many of the events surrounding a Super Bowl include all sorts of rank immorality – sometimes, especially, the half-time show.

Therefore, Dr. Craig, I must disagree, sort of.  (P.S. – I plan to watch the game tonight, at least until it gets boring, which I don’t expect this one will.  I will even enjoy some of the creative commercials.  I won’t watch the half-time shows.  Even when they are not tawdry, or even pornographic, they are too often just idiotic.)